It was an awesome weekend up in the Pittsburgh, PA area for the River Bassin Tournament Trail regional stop held at the Rivers Edge in Leechburg. I had the pleasure of going up a day and a half early to fish with fellow team member Noah Heck and he was even cool enough to take me to a Pirates/Cubs game on Thursday night with some fellow Kayak-Anglers.com members and his wife Summer.
The game nearly got rained out as thunderstorms rolled through the area. The rivers were already high but I figured there would be somewhere to fish within a 2 hours drive. It took a lot of satellite scouting and USGS river gauge perusing but eventually I found a couple spots that looked very “fishy” and were low enough to probably be fishable.
The next morning Noah and I made the drive up to our spot hoping that at least one would be clear enough to fish. Our first location proved to definitely be too high and muddy from the more recent rain the night before. However, a smaller tributary that we found was fishable even though it was heavily stained too. In muddy water I go to a couple different lures, either a spinnerbait tipped with a Z-MAN diesel minnow OR a chatter bait. This time I felt the chatter bait gave me the best shot so that’s what I used.
I was determined to catch fish and put up a good “beat Drew bonus score” for the following day’s tournament so I told my dog Lu to “be a good girl today and don’t distract me or scare the fish” and then shoved off into the river. We were already behind the 8 ball because we slept in and I decided to make the mistake of opening my laptop in the morning and next thing ya know I’m replying to emails for an hour! Still, we were now on fishable water, with the best kayak for moving water like this, the Coosa, and the best bait. 10 minutes into the trip I confirmed that A.) there are smallmouth in this creek and B.) they like a chatter bait. It was only a 13 inch fish but at least I was on the board!
About 45 minutes later Noah and I made our way downstream. I get to this steeper cut out looking bank that is lined with boulders and as I cast yell out to Noah, “Man, this look amazeballs..” and then WHAM, FISH ON! As quick as it was on, it was off. I couldn’t believe it! It felt BIG too. I picked myself up and threw back in and sure enough WHAM again! A few seconds later and I had this 19.25 inch smallmouth in the boat, Yee Haw!
The fish I lost was on for a few seconds and I’m almost positive the one I caught was a different fish. If only I had the one I lost and the one I caught I’d have a nice 3-fish score! We drifted down and then all of the sudden without any warning a storm comes in over the mountain and starts down pouring on us. I was tight to the bank trying to stay dry and had made my way back up to the spot where the previous fish was caught but, by now, the water has risen tremendously and it was RED. Still, I knew there had to be more than one big smallie in the area and I was going to at least make a cast in there again. Sure enough, right on the bank landed my chatter bait and just three cranks in WHAM huge bronzeback on! This one was almost a clone at 19 inches. Ok, now I’m starting to think I’ve done a respectable job of river basin even in tough conditions, especially considering a 19 inch smallmouth is considered citation-size in PA and many folks have never caught one – I had 2 in about an hour and a half!
We loaded up after the storm passed and decided to check out one more creek before we headed back. It was definitely stained but not quite as bad as the last one and if I was able to catch that last smallmouth in red water then Noah and I were like “what the hey, let’s put in for an hour!” Glad we did because Noah got into a nice 16.75 inch and 17 inch smallmouth and I was able to upgrade my 13 incher to a 16.50 inch fish giving me a 54.75 inch score!
We were pumped to come away with such nice fish in tough conditions. A lot of times those bigger fish can be fooled a lot easier in muddy/swift water, but the trick is that we don’t often want to fish in it or don’t have the paddle skill to do so yet (safety first kids!).
I’ll post up the results from the River Bassin Tournament with a recap of it soon but I’ll tell you this much, we had a blast at the Rivers Edge regardless of the river conditions last weekend and can’t wait to do it all again!